Facebook's Devolution into Fake News

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In an open letter to Facebook users, Mark Zuckerberg stated that the reason he created Facebook was to help people understand what was going on in their world a little better (Zuckerberg, 2006). Having been a member of that social site nearly since its inception, I wonder if that has actually happened.

When Facebook began, my Friend List was rather small. My newsfeed was comprised of family and friends staying in touch and sharing photos. I have watched it evolve over the course of my time as a member. But whereas other social mediums such as Instagram and Twitter have remained true to their original form and intent, Facebook has morphed into something different altogether. Once a site for friends and family, I have watched it change: first into a site based around various Facebook games, then into a site for sharing memes.

This evolution in Facebook was a big one, because it redefined what Facebook was. No longer was it just a venue for communication and memories; now, it was a medium for something else. Websites popped up for the sole purpose of creating memes, which filled my newsfeed far more than ever before. Yes, they are good for a laugh. Some are even made to promote positive things, such as beating depression or promoting unity.

Then, Facebook moved further away from its original use. The usage of these pictures being shared changed from humor into hate. Links promoted through Facebook's algorithm of "you may like" and relevant ads and sponsored pages were filled with fake news using clickbait. And unfortunately, it seems as though the majority of Facebook doesn't realize that it is indeed fake news. In my experience, most will read the headline and share it, furthering its reach, without even opening the article.

The articles are being presented as real news. No where are the words satire, satirical, humor or anything else relevant to what it is displayed in the articles, which is anything but real news. It is largely believed that social media helped decide this most recent Presidential election, having more sway than in any that had come before. Throughout the entire campaign, fake news articles spreading lies about the opposition spread like wildfire. Even now that the campaign is over, these fake news stories are still present, generating ad revenue for the writers of such garbage journalism, as well as money for Facebook itself.

Do I blame Facebook for allowing such a shift in its platform? No. Any platform will be exploited if it's possible. But I do blame Facebook for making it so easy. There's a certain social responsibility that being such a media giant should carry. And that should include banning such articles, or requiring that they have the word "satire" prominently displayed next to the link.

Facebook should not be held responsible for every post and its content. But this type of articles couldn't thrive without the existence of Facebook, and unlike the porn that Facebook successfully keeps off of its pages, these articles and their clickbait fully depend on Facebook to exist. If Facebook gets rid of them, they will shrivel up and die. If Facebook can eliminate adult content, they can erase the fake news content as well. Neither belong in a medium that should return to its roots: storing memories and enhancing communication capabilities.

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